Multiple locations in Frederick and Ijamsville
Our favorite ribs in the area can be found at this trio of cheery barbecue houses. The St. Louis–cut racks are available two ways—dry (rubbed in brown sugar and spices) or wet (mopped in thick, sweet sauce). We can never decide, so spring for a half rack of each. Brisket is best shown off in a Baltimore-style sandwich with horseradish sauce and raw onion, or doused in zesty crimson sauce for the destination-worthy dish known as Arkansas beef.
Also good: Baked beans; potato salad.
Adams Morgan, 1654 Columbia Rd.
Rob Sonderman, an alum of upscale kitchens including Bistro Bis, made his name running the show at DCity Smokehouse. In 2016, he left to open this box-sized Adams Morgan spot. If you were a DCity fan, you’ll recognize some of his all-star sandwiches (now with different names)—such as a pile-up of brisket, fried onions, and house-made pickles on buttery Texas toast. Sides (chipotle-scented green beans, mac and cheese with smoked cheddar) are another clue that a pedigreed chef is in the kitchen.
Also good: Chicken wings; Carolina on My Mind sandwich, with pulled pork and slaw.
Penn Quarter, 410 Seventh St., NW
You might think of this Texas-style hall as big-box barbecue, complete with hokey menu names (Cool as a Cucumber Salad), a zillion staffers (who sometimes seem on autopilot), and a sprawling, multi-counter setup. What it lacks in personality, it makes up for with its stellar moist brisket, which is wondrously fatty, and its superb sausages, imported from Texas’s legendary Kreuz Market. Sides are feast-worthy—especially fluffy corn pudding and baked beans dotted with burnt ends.
Also good: Smoked chicken; ribs.
1309 Fifth St., NE (Union Market)
1942 11th St., NW (Solly’s Tavern)
Joe Neuman started as a history teacher, then ditched textbooks in favor of a food truck. These days, you’ll find his ’cue at a stall in Union Market and at Solly’s Tavern. A pig roast triggered Neuman’s career change, and his pulled pork is the best reason to visit. Mainly smoky, riddled with crispy bits, and never dry, it’s as good heaped on a brioche bun as it is alone with a splash of flame-red vinegar. His pickle-topped fried-chicken sandwich is a close second.
Also good: Pimiento cheese; cornbread.
Arlington, 2761 Washington Blvd.
We’d be happy dining at this cavernous Lyon Park place even if we didn’t eat meat. The sides—whether a warm salad of corn done up elote-style with cilantro and cotija, an eggy potato salad, or crispy Brussels sprouts tossed in lemon and Parmesan—are that tasty. Still, A-plus accoutrements aren’t enough to land a place on this list. Killer brisket, addictive smoked wings, and a tasty pulled-pork sandwich topped with Sriracha pickles are. Happy hour offers great deals, including a $6 burger and a plate of brisket-topped nachos.
Also good: Brisket-and-queso sandwich; kale salad.
Because sauces and sides such as baked beans can be plenty sugary, we tend to stay away from the ubiquitous sweet tea and instead grab a lager or IPA.
Depending on the place, you’ll see molasses-tinted Kansas City sauce, tangy South Carolina mustard sauce, peppery Vinegar, and a few smoky, spicy creations of the restaurant’s own.
Many vegetarians have long loved ’cue joints for the sides—mac and cheese, slaw, and potato salad (not collards or baked beans, though, which typically contain pork).
Still hungry? Most places serve Southern-style sweets such as banana pudding or a pie or two.